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Arthur Joseph Goldberg Edit Profile


Arthur Joseph Goldberg was an American jurist and statesman who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor, Supreme Court Justice, and ambassador to the United Nations.


Goldberg, Arthur Joseph was born on August 8, 1908. Son of Joseph and Rebecca (Perlstein) Goldberg. Born on Chicago’s east side, he was the eighth son and eleventh child of poor Russian immigrants. At the age of twelve, he was an errand boy delivering boots and shoes.


He worked his way through school and graduated first in his law class at Northwestern University, being called to the Illinois bar in 1929.


He specialized in labor law, in which he soon achieved renown. During World War II he headed the labor division of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), with the rank of major. As a lawyer, his reputation was as a champion of human rights and an arbitrator who excelled in devising formulas which safeguarded the interests of both sides in industrial disputes.

In 1948 he was appointed general counsel both of the United Steelworkers of America and of the Council of Industrial Organization (CIO). He played a central part in negotiating the merger between the CIO and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and in drafting anticorruption rules that contributed to breaking the communist hold on certain unions.

With this background he was President John F. Kennedy s natural choice for secretary of labor at the beginning of 1961. As secretary, he worked to raise the minimum wage and to increase unemployment benefits. He was praised for not allowing his former interests to influence his new policies. In the summer of 1962 Kennedy appointed him an associate justice of the Supreme Court, where he was part of the liberal majority that expanded constitutional rights, including the rights of privacy. He wrote several historic decisions including the right of every accused prisoner to be advised by a lawyer during police interrogation.

In 1965 he was persuaded by President Lyndon B. Johnson to leave the Supreme Court in order to succeed Adlai Stevenson as U.S. representative to the United Nations. He was intensely active during the critical period preceding, during, and following the 1967 Arab-Israel war. During the six days of the war, he called for a cease fire without Israeli withdrawal, was involved in negotiations to end the war, and subsequently helped to draft Security Council Resolution 242, which was to set the tone of Arab-Israel relations for many years to come. The Arabs accused him of swinging U.S. policy in a pro-Israel direction. Goldberg had also to deal with the Rhodesian crisis and the question of admitting Communist China to the United Nations. He also looked for ways to end involvement in Vietnam and hoped to apply his negotiating skills to this end. He was disappointed, however, at not being given a larger role and when he resigned in 1968, he cited Vietnam as one of his greatest frustrations.

He resumed his legal practice, but entered politics to take charge of Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign in New York, one of the states carried by Humphrey. In April 1970, Goldberg was nominated Democratic candidate for the governorship of New York State, opposing Nelson Rockefeller. His defeat was partially due to his failure to win the endorsement of a New York trade union for which he had once done so much.

Public service came for the last time when he was roving ambassador for President Jimmy Carter (1977-1978), his main assignment being to head the U.S. delegation to the first review conference of the Helsinki European Security and Cooperation accords. There he was responsible for putting human rights issues, especially the situation of Soviet Jews under Leonid Brezhnev, at the top of the agenda of the thirty-five nation gathering, and he repeatedly took the Soviets to task for their shortcomings on this issue.


  • Bar: Illinois 1929, District of Columbia 1937, New York 1937, Virginia 1937, Supreme Court of the United States Court 1937.


Although Justice Goldberg served only three terms on the Court, his contribution during that brief period was significant. Most important, perhaps, Goldberg’s presence on the Court finally gave Chief Justice Earl Warren a consistent and crucial fifth vote in support of the Court’s liberal bloc, consisting previously of the chief justice, Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, and William Brennan, Jr. Replacing the great advocate of judicial restraint, Felix Frankfurter, Justice Goldberg tipped the balance of power on tiie Court toward Warren and his liberal allies and secured the majority neces-sary to accomplish what would become known as the Warren court’s rights revolution. Five votes now routinely favored the claims of individual rights over competing government interests, and in short order this restructuring of the balance of power on the Court revolutionized the face of constitutional law. As secretary of labor, Goldberg had been charged with protecting the interests of American workers. As a Supreme Court justice, he perceived himself to have been given a different but related task. As Goldberg described it, “The Secretary left his post having tried, to the best of his ability, to fulfill the statutory mandate of advancing the interests of the wage earners and the industry of the country; the Justice enters on his judicial office conscious that he has been called on to do his part in the “sacred stir toward justice” and with the trembling hope “that the flame will burn bright while the torch is in [his] keeping.” Goldberg’s presence on the Court made itself felt most significantly in the area of cases involving the rights of criminal defendants. His most important opinion for the Court on this subject was Escobedo v. Illinois (1964). Escobedo had been questioned by police in connection with their investigation of his brother-in-law’s murder. Early in the interrogation, Escobedo had requested the opportunity to talk with his lawyer, who had actually come to see him in jail but had been denied the chance to talk with his client. The police dtus prevented their consultation and failed to warn Escobedo of his right to remain silent. Ultimately Escobedo made in-criminating statements to the police that were instrumental in securing his conviction for murder. Writing for a majority of the Court, Goldberg held that Escobedo’s confession under these circumstances was inadmissible because the suspect had been denied his right to counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.


Past president, then honorary chairman American Jewish Committee. Past chairman, president Synagogue Council of America, Jewish Theological Seminary, International Association Jewish Lawyers. Member of American Bar Association, United Nations Association (honorary chairman), Association Bar City New York, District of Columbia Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association, Order of Coif.


Quotes from others about the person

  • “The Republican senator Barry Goldwater said of him “He is the only labor leader I can talk to without getting angry.””


Married Dorothy Kurgans, July 18, 1931 (deceased December 1988). Children: Barbara L. Goldberg Cramer, Robert M.

Joseph Goldberg

Rebecca (Perlstein) Goldberg

Dorothy Kurgans

Barbara L. Goldberg Cramer Goldberg

Robert M. Goldberg